Matthew 13:24-30, 34-43 Jesus presented another parable to those gathered: “The kindom of heaven is like a farmer who sowed good seed in a field. While everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and then made off. When the crop began to mature and yield grain, the weeds became evident as well. “The farmer’s workers came and asked, ‘Did you not sow good seed in your field? Where are weeds coming from?’ “The farmer replied, ‘I see an enemy’s hand in this.’ “They in turn asked, ‘Do you want us to go out and pull them up?’ 29 “ ‘No,’ replied the farmer, ‘if you pull up the weeds, you might take the wheat along with them. 30 Let them grow together until the harvest, then at harvest time I will order the harvesters first to collect the weeds and bundle them up to burn, then to gather the wheat into my barn.’ ” 34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables. He spoke to them in parables only, 35 to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce things hidden since the foundation of the world.” 36 Then Jesus left the crowd and went into the house. The disciples also came in and said, “Explain the parable about the weeds in the field.” 37 Jesus answered, “The farmer sowing the good seed is the Chosen One, 38 the field is the world, and the good seed, the citizens of the kindom. The weeds are the followers of the Evil One,39 and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the world, while the harvesters are the angels. 40 Just as weeds are collected and burned, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Chosen One will send the angels who will weed out the kindom of everything that causes sin and all who act lawlessly. 42 The angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 But those who are just will shine like the sun in the kindom of their Abba God. Let those who have ears to hear, hear this!
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Christ in Us: Patience
Sweep always the darkness, burn away the chaff Whatever you need to do, Lord do in me Those are beautiful words, an awesome prayer of self-emptying and submission- a giving of ourselves into the hands of the creator God to grow us into everything we are designed to be… whatever you need to do Lord, do in me… but wow, when you think about it, those are really tough words if we take them to heart. Sometimes when I sing that song I feel like God’s eyebrow goes up and God says, are you sure about that? Then I always want to add my own line in… whatever you need to do Lord, do in me…. As long as it doesn’t hurt, or cause me to give up anything or anyone I love, or upset the balance of my well thought out well planted garden… cause no kidding, I have everything, well, most things, just where I want them. And if I’m in darkness about them. Or there’s chaff on my wheat- well, maybe God could take it a little at a time… Let the weeds and the wheat grow together… right?
I don’t know… After last week's comforting and uplifting story of the sower dropping fistfuls of seed on all kinds of soil, and praise God for that, I am thankful for that… this week the parable seems a little more ‘realistic’- this is the everyday stuff of the Christian life when we admit, yes, there are weeds in my wheat…
To the hearers of this parable In the 1st century, the story would have made perfect sense; there was a Roman law that prohibited the planting of a weed, called 'darnel’ into your neighbor’s wheat field. Darnel is a weed that, when they are very young plants they look a lot like wheat, so a farmer wouldn’t even see them in the wheat field, but as the plants mature their seeds become dark and are poisonous.
Finding darnel in a wheat field can be devastating to a farmer. If the farmer were lucky enough to spot it early, and try to pull it out, he would lose a lot, if not all of his wheat crop, because underground, the roots of the darnel and the wheat are heavily entangled. But if he waited to pull it when the wheat comes to maturity, the darnel does its worst, and poisons the whole field. In essence, either way it sabotages the farmer's crop, and in some cases his yearly income. (1)
So Jesus says, in the Kindom of heaven the farmer lets the wheat and weeds grow together; but instead of the field being poisoned, (like the hearers would have expected) at the harvest, the farmer will send the harvesters to gather up the weeds and burn them in the fire but still (somehow) save all the wheat. Or, in Jesus’s interpretation of the parable-“The Chosen One will send angels, and they will collect out of the kindom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (YIKES!)
Now, when I first heard this parable, it was from a pastor who assured me that as long as I was a believer, and was living like a Christian, I had nothing to worry about- those other people- the non-Christians- the sinners- the weeds, were going to get theirs in the end, BUT I didn’t have to worry about them, because this parable is about not judging others.
Now, in part, he was right. This parable is about not judging. And it is all about leaving God to do the work and about us being everything a healthy grain of wheat is supposed to be- fully living out God’s will for us, …despite entangling our roots with the things that sabotage and threaten to destroy us.
Just like the first century farmers, we live in a world that is laced with darnel- we’ve been raised in a society where darnel is sold as the real deal, and socialized in, and been sold in, and have bought in... and just as in the parable, it happens without our permission or awareness… but it becomes our normal, or our false Gods, as we talked about a few weeks ago. And the day our eyes are opened to the dark seed threatening to destroy us we balk- “There’s weeds in my wheat? Where did the weeds come from?” We look for someone to blame, it’s got to be someone’s fault, right? Sometimes we even run back and blame God "did you not sow good seed in me?"
And as much as we want to get rid of the darnel in our lives, and we idealize and fantasize what we would look like and how we would act without it, if we take a hard look at the darnel, and a hard look at ourselves and the roots it’s entangled with, it becomes a much more complicated task to remove. As I said before, much as I want to change, as much as I fight against my own selfishness, I know myself too well and my baggage too well. I know that as much as I try to live out everything God wants me to be and do, I still fall short.
Just as I can be any kind of soil on any given day, there are times in my life that my thoughts and actions are much more weed-like than wheat-like. I know there are people around me who have been poisoned with my darkness, and who, have been sabotaged because of things I have said or not said, have done or not done. And that stuff is tough to let go of. It festers inside of me on a good day- on a bad day I go on with my life like it doesn't matter at all. And on any given day, there is someone or something that reminds me of just how weedy my behavior can get.
But because of how many times this happens, whether it's through my own acknowledgement and self-deprecation, or others pointing out to me the ways in which I fall short, I can develop a perception of myself that looks a lot like darnel, which means most days I live in this field with my face toward the sun praying I won't be spotted for what I truly am. And when no one is looking, I try like heck to pull up the weeds around me, to the point where it can become my sole focus- it can distract me to the point where I don't do anything for the kindom at all. So in essence, pulling out my own weedy parts, can in fact uproot the part of me that should be thriving! No wonder Jesus says to let them grow up together. God uses all of us, even the parts we find unacceptable or unworthy or poisonous. Amen? Except... there is still that part about the fiery furnace... what will happen at the end of the age- what will I be found to be? A wheat or a weed? In the end, am I left with the threat of being thrown away? Here’s the truth…
Jesus never says that we will be thrown away... Jesus doesn't teach us that we can ever be lost... Jesus doesn’t motivate us to love God using fear and threats. Jesus doesn’t call us to be like him “or else.” What Jesus does teach is that we are loved and cherished beyond our understanding. And because we have trouble seeing ourselves as wheat- as accepted, and loved and valued exactly as we are, we let this false perception of ourselves (darnel) define who we are and what we become.
And in the end, it is that false perception, that poisonous, sinful, missing- who-we-are-in-God part of ourselves that will be gathered up and burned in the fire. We don’t get left out of the barn, no not one of us! And as those false selves- the things we thought made us valuable- or the things we used to protect us, to sustain us, or soothe us, or shame us… when those parts of us that are ungodly burn away, yes, there is great sorrow ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth.’ When we realize in the light of God’s love all the things we took on and carried for so long- the burdens and stress of living up to something we never had to worry about- the joy of the Lord weve missed because we didn’t think we were enough… but let me tell you, right here, right now, you are enough… And we will see our true selves… righteous… holy… beautiful… valuable- not for who we think we are, but because of who God made us to be. The Parable of the Wheat and Weeds means to counsel us against our habit of ‘condemning and judging and beating ourselves up for not being perfect … by learning God’s mercy and grace and acceptance. When we pray that prayer- take away the darkness, blow away the chaff- we ask for the gift of seeing ourselves how God sees us- to take the blinders off- to live as children of God in and through the joy of the Lord